Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scenes #6
I’ll be posting a new deleted scene or excerpt from The Lunar Chronicles every Friday through January 27, spanning the releases of The Lunar Chronicles Coloring Book on December 6 and Wires and Nerve, vol. 1 on January 31.
SPOILERS WARNING: Even though this scene was ultimately deleted (or heavily altered), it still contains information and references to things that did make it into the book. I strongly encourage readers to enjoy the published books before proceeding!
Before we get to today’s scene, here’s a timeline…
A few questions have come up regarding the timeline of writing these drafts, so I thought I’d give a little timeline. As far as I can remember, the writing of this series went something like this:
Late 2008: Wrote the first drafts of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, all at once, back to back.
2008-late 2010: Revised Cinder; sold Cinder to publisher.
Early 2011: Wrote the first draft of Winter. (I was seriously paranoid about the first book publishing before I’d “completed” the series, in case I discovered something that I wanted to go back and change.)
Early to mid-2011: Completed final revisions on Cinder, with editor’s input. Note: She was the one who suggested that maybe, possibly, I wanted to keep Iko around? Clearly, she was right! However, I only wanted there to be seven crew members by the time Winter joins the group (a la Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!), so if I was keeping Iko, that meant someone else had to go at some point… (Hence, the death at the end of Cress.)
2011-early 2012: Revised and turned in Scarlet. Iko rejoins the crew in second draft.
2012-early 2013: Revised and turned in Cress. It is virtually unrecognizable from first draft.
Early to mid-2013: Keep getting stuck trying to revise Winter.
Late 2013: Write Fairest. Learn a lot about Levana!
2013-early 2014: Revise, revise, revise Winter and finally turn it in after what seemed like AGES.
Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scene #6
(Part 1 of 2)
From: Winter, 1st draft
Featuring: Almost Everyone
Helpful set-up: This scene took place after Deleted Scene #5, in which Princess Winter had just joined the crew of the Rampion. Since then, Levana has learned that Winter is with the crew, and has offered a trade: Jacin, in exchange for Cinder. (DUN DUN DUN.) Cinder, being Cinder, agreed to the trade, and she and Thorne have left to meet with Levana and make the exchange.
Oh, and at some point Jacin tried to make a run for it and cut his hair in an attempt to disguise himself. That’s not really important, but I didn’t want all the fanartists to worry.
* * *
There was a sense of agitation in the ship. Winter could feel it not only in her own squirming stomach and humming nerves, but in all her new companions as well. No one had said much in the two hours since Cinder and the captain had debarked, leaving them all to wait with bated breath to see if the captain would return.
There was little hope he would be coming back with Cinder, and though that filled with Winter with anxiety—Princess Selene! Their one hope!—her thoughts turned more often to Jacin.
Jacin, beaten and bruised and in pain, tortured and treated like a criminal, like a traitor, all because of her.
Would her stepmother really let him go? Would she really accept Cinder’s trade? It seemed unlikely when she had no reason to. Not when Cinder was handing herself over without a fight and Levana could just as easily keep and kill them both—and the ship’s captain as well. But how long would they have to wait before they knew for sure that Captain Thorne would not be coming back?
Biting her lip, Winter cast her gaze around the cargo hold. At some time during her thoughts, Scarlet and Wolf had gone into the cockpit and the doctor had meandered back toward the bedrooms or the kitchen, leaving Winter alone with Cress, who kept pacing in front of the netscreen on the wall, fidgeting with her own portscreen, and sucking nervously on the tips of her hair.
Winter watched her, recognizing the impatience and worry. She wondered if the captain knew, and if he cared.
The same way she had so often wondered if Jacin knew how she felt . . . and if he cared.
“Why hasn’t she initiated a link yet?” Cress hissed, more to herself than to Winter. “She should have connected by now. Unless I did something wrong . . . or unless she’s . . .” Cheeks paling, she dropped onto a crate for just long enough to rub her palms into her eyes before hopping back up and resuming her constant pacing. Checking her portscreen. Checking the netscreen. Checking for what, Winter hadn’t the faintest idea.
Chewing her lip, she tugged on a curl, stretching it straight before letting it spring back to its coil.
He would be livid that Princess Selene would even consider trading herself for him. He would think it was the biggest mistake—a mistake that would cost them all dearly. And he would probably be right. Winter wondered if she shouldn’t have fought harder to change the princess’s mind, but it had all happened so fast. The declaration, the preparation, and then they were gone, leaving the crew to worry after them.
And though Winter didn’t trust Levana’s promises, she couldn’t swallow down a sting of hope. Jacin. If he were still alive. If Cinder got to him in time. If Levana kept her word.
Too many ifs that wouldn’t silence.
Then a voice rang out through the ship speakers, jarring her thoughts, good and bad.
“Identified Rampion podship approaching. Preparing to allow docking in 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . .”
Winter looked at Cress, at the girl’s face flushing, her blue eyes staring at nothing while the ship counted down. Snapping out of the trance, she met Winter’s gaze, just as Wolf came bolting out of the cockpit with Scarlet on his heels. Wolf didn’t look over as he grabbed a knife and a gun from the rack against the wall and hurled himself down the ladder that led to the ship’s sublevel.
Scarlet paused long enough to look first at Cress, then Winter, then back at Cress. “Stay up here, wait for Cinder. Once we determine it is Thorne, we’ll need you to do a full sweep of the pod, make sure no tracking devices or spy—”
“I know. I will.” Cress nodded emphatically, but there was dazed hope in her eyes, not fear.
Again, the pilot’s gaze focused on Winter and again she said nothing, looking toward the corridor instead. “Where’s the doctor?”
Cress shook her head. “He’s upset. He still doesn’t agree with Cinder’s decision.”
“Yeah, that makes a lot of us.”
Scarlet hurtled herself down the ladder and Cress took half a step as if to follow her before groaning and rounding back toward the still-blank netscreen. She backed up against a crate, casting her feverish gaze between the screen, the ladder, the screen, then, as if startled to find Winter hadn’t left, she met her eyes.
Reaching out suddenly, she wrapped her fingers tenderly but forcefully around Winter’s wrist and forced a brilliant smile. “It is the captain, I’m sure of it, and I’m sure he’s brought back your guard. Don’t worry.”
Just hearing the words gave Winter permission to hope, for the briefest of seconds. “Should I stay up here? Is it safe to . . . can I . . .”
She swallowed a breath and looked back toward the ladder, wondering if she should stay and wait, in case it was a trap. In case something, or someone, dangerous had returned with that ship. But her heart was pounding and her palms were sweating and in the sudden silence of the cargo room the unknowing was agony.
“You should go,” Cress said, releasing her. “I know I would be down there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for . . .” She cast a furious gaze at the netscreen, knotting her lips.
Winter hesitated for a moment more, tucking her hair behind an ear, before giving a determined nod. “Thank you,” she whispered, throwing a smile at the blonde girl, before rushing toward the ladder.
Scarlet and Wolf were waiting inside the skinny corridor flanked by the engine room and the pod dock, the door locked tight while they waited for the dock to close against the vacuum of space and the life support system to fill the room with breathable air again. Winter clutched the rungs of the ladder behind her while they waited. No one spoke, eyes glued to the small screen that controlled the door and the locking device. Wolf’s hands flexed and relaxed and flexed again on his weapons.
“One of these days,” Scarlet whispered, careful not to disturb the unbreakable tension too drastically, “we need to get some cameras in there.”
Wolf grunted his agreement.
The light beside the door turned to green.
Wolf’s arm was lightning, shoving the door open before anyone in the podship would have a chance to get out. He rushed in, gun pointed, knife ready. Scarlet followed, Winter noticed, with a gun of her own, clicking off the safety as she stepped over the threshold.
Nervous, weaponless, Winter crept in last, just in time to see the pilot’s door whisk open.
Captain Thorne hauled himself out of the ship, and gave nothing more than an approving nod at Wolf, before rounding to the other side of the pod.
“Where’s the doctor?” he said, flicking his wrist over a scanner on the ship’s side. The second door opened and through the tinted glass, Winter thought she spotted a glint of pale hair. Her heart leapt.
“Upstairs,” said Scarlet. “Throwing a tantrum.”
“Comm him, now.” The captain reached in, ducking his head low. “Tell him to grow up and get down here, fast. We’re going to need him.”
Scarlet turned away, rushing to tap something into a small screen on the wall beside the door.
Thorne grunted, and Wolf moved to his side, pocketing both weapons in a single fluid movement, before leaning in to help Thorne pull a man out of the passenger seat and lower him to the hard, cold floor.
A cry dropped from Winter’s lips, relief muddled with terror. She dodged past Scarlet and fell to her knees, hovering over Jacin’s body.
“Is he alive?”
The captain blinked up at her as if he didn’t recognize her for a moment, before setting his jaw again. “Barely.”
She stared aghast at Jacin’s body. Shirtless, his torso was covered in crusted dark blood, careful straight gashes cutting geometric shapes on his chest—not unlike Winter’s own scars—and swollen punctures down his arms. One eye was swollen shut and his lips were bleeding too, not from injury but from lack of moisture.
“He needs water,” she said, cradling his head in her hands.
“He needs a lot more than water.” Thorne glanced up. “Scarlet—!”
“The doctor’s on his way. Should I get water?”
“Water, bandages, drugs . . . lots of drugs.”
Winter heard the girl scrambling back up the ladder, but a low moan drug her attention back to Jacin.
“Jacin! Jacin, it’s me. You’re all right. You’re safe.”
He moaned again, the cracks in his lips opening fresh as they were pulled apart.
“Don’t move. Just hold still. A doctor’s coming.”
“He must have known you were here,” Thorne said, dragging her confused gaze up to him. His lips twitched, without amusement. “He didn’t budge or make a sound for the entire flight. Maybe he has a thing for you.”
Heart tripping, she looked back down at Jacin and ran her fingers gently through the short, matted spikes of ragged blonde hair. “He’s a good friend.”
Winter ignored him, her heart expanding against her rib cage as Jacin moaned again and his one good eye strained to open.
“It’s all right. Relax,” she murmured. Wetting the pad of her thumb, she rubbed it gently across Jacin’s lashes, cleaning away the dried blood until he could barely squint open.
He gazed up at her, his blue eye glazed with both pain and numbness. But through the agony in his face, he somehow managed to smile and squeeze her hand, the sensation sending warm relief flooding over her.
“Prin-cess,” he whispered through his dry, cracked voice. “My princess.”
The interior of the queen’s ship was all white and sparkling and pristine. The walls were made of the same pearlescent material that the exterior was, the seats all covered in the most supple white leather, the warm round lights embedded in the ceiling casting an almost romantic glow over everyone. Even the sneering red-headed guard as he passed Cinder and took his seat in the cockpit. Even the four wolf soldiers who stayed standing, as cruel and imposing as any beasts, even in their human forms.
They still did not shackle her. One of the soldiers indicated a seat beside the ship’s hatchway, giving Cinder a merciless look until she sank down into it. The queen sat opposite, facing her, long legs crossed and fingers toying with the ends of her auburn curls.
Her eyes pierced Cinder throughout the entire short flight, out of the cave, low over the pocked surface of the moon. She never stopped smiling her secret, proud smile.
Cinder couldn’t hold her gaze, though she wished she could pretend to be as haughty, wishing she could give the queen at least an inkling that she had just walked into a trap of her own. But the gaze was too sharp and disconcerting. Cinder kept her gaze focused on the large glass windows instead, watching as they passed over domes filled with forests and domes filled with farmland and domes filled with cities.
It wasn’t long before the ship started into a gradual descent, nearing the largest dome in the center of the Lunar civilization. Glistening white steeples and towers and citadels reached toward them like bony fingers—beautiful, but also eerie in its beauty. Just like the queen.
The ship sank toward the surface, delving into another cave, but this one nothing like the first. It had all the markings of a royal dock—walls lined with shiny white plating that reminded Cinder of her jail cell back in New Beijing, more guards and wolf soldiers and low-ranking thaumaturges in black jackets lined the pad where they landed, crystal-draped sconces were interspersed with flickering netscreens on the smooth walls.
“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay, Linh Cinder.”
She dragged her attention back to the queen, her blood-red lips sneering.
“I’m sure I won’t,” she said, her voice trembling only on the last word. She cursed inwardly as the corners of Levana’s lips twitched upward.
Two soldiers exited first, gave a quick surveillance of the dock, before nodding in toward the queen. Levana stood and drifted down the ramp as if she’d just been out on a lovely tour of the country.
Cinder rooted herself to the chair and waited until one of the wolf soldiers grabbed her by her arm and hauled her up, shoving her down the ramp with a squeeze so painful she had to bite back a cry of pain.
She glared at him over her shoulder, rubbing the arm, as she followed behind the queen.
Her finger twitched and she wondered how quickly she could have a tranquilizer dart loaded in her pointer finger, how long it would take to shoot the queen in the back. But it was a stupid fantasy—a tranquilizer dart would only leave the queen unconscious for a time, not kill her, and the attack would be sure to end Cinder’s life prematurely. She could at least wait for a formal execution for that.
Squeezing her cyborg hand into a fist, she instead put her attention into establishing a direct-link with Cress and the crew.
The link connected on the first attempt and she nearly hiccupped with surprise.
D-COMM link now in progress with Unknown User.
She forced her suddenly rapid pulse to slow, focusing on measured breaths as she adjusted the lens in her eye to record and transmit. The video footage of everything she saw was about to be seen by her companions, too. All she could hope now was that they found something useful.
She kept her focus mostly on Queen Levana, waiting for her to turn around, to show the camera her true face, but she kept walking at a steady clip.
At least initiating the link hadn’t seemed to set off any alarms. When Cinder glanced at the soldier marching just behind her, he settled a suspicious, always-angry glare on her, but she suspected that was just his natural expression.
Not knowing what else to do, she followed behind the queen and started committing the layout of the Lunar palace to memory.
They left the dock through a huge glass door leading to a terminal of moving sidewalks and elevator bays and dozens of netscreens directing nonexistent traffic to different destinations within the Lunar capitol. Cinder imagined this would normally be a hub of activity, filled with city representatives and the queen’s minions and whoever else regularly traveled between the domes, but it seemed the dock had been evacuated for the queen’s private usage.
An elevator awaited them, flanked by more guards.
“I’m sorry I won’t be able to give you a private tour,” said the queen, swooping into the elevator, before turning to face Cinder with the same sickening smile. “I am in the midst of preparing for my wedding. I’m sure you’ll understand.”
Cinder bit her lip, hoping to hide her own inner glee as her imbedded camera was able to get a full, close-up look of the queen. Although her optobionics were taking longer to register the queen’s features, she knew whatever was projected on the other side of the link would not be effected by the queen’s glamour.
The camera would see who she was beneath the illusion.
“No worries,” she said, finding herself strangely calmed by this one victory, no matter how small. “You’ve shown me plenty enough already.”
A brief frown creased the queen’s brow, as if she could sense Cinder’s sudden lightness of heart—and she no doubt could. She stepped back, beckoning for Cinder and her entourage to follow. “I can show you to your accommodations, though. I’m sure they’ll meet with your expectations. I understand you’re quite used to jail cells by now.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Cinder, stepping in to join the queen, two guards and three soldiers surrounding them in the elevator, though with the queen’s piercing stare it felt like they were alone. “That last one could only hold me for about a day.”
“Yes, I recall,” said the queen, her lips tight, disapproving at Cinder’s sudden flippancy. “This one will be much better prepared, I assure you.”
The doors shut and nothing else was said as the elevator descended. And descended. And descended. Cinder grit her teeth, nervous that her connection would cut out again, when finally the elevator stopped and the doors opened.
They were no longer in the pristine, contemporary world of lights and moving pictures and automated voices. Instead, Cinder found herself following the queen out into another cave, smaller but not unlike the cave where they had made the trade for her life.
The elevator was situated at a crossroads, with four dark, chalky tunnels stretching out in each direction. One of the guards took the lead, guiding them down the third tunnel, a short staircase, more tunnels, and soon Cinder found herself passing barred prison cells on either side.
She wet her tongue, the first hints of claustrophobia setting in. She felt constantly for the d-comm link, checking that her comrades were still within reach. This prison of rocks and iron doors was nothing like the modern structure in New Beijing. This was dreary and tight and smelled of rot and urine. And worst of all—she had no blueprint of this prison. She had no map, no plan, no means of judging her location in this labyrinth of cells and caves.
The guard paused and unlocked one heavy iron door, not with a scan of an ID chip, but with a series of intricate keys. An old-fashioned lock.
“This will be your home until I have a free moment to end your life, as it should have ended many years ago.”
“Lovely,” Cinder murmured, peering into the cell that didn’t look large enough for her to lay down in and had nothing but a shallow metal dish against one wall, already half-filled with some mystery liquid that made her stomach churn.
“Before you begin acquainting yourself with your new, temporary home, though, I would like to introduce you to someone.”
Queen Levana’s lips curled with that sudden, impish smile and she turned toward the cell opposite Cinder’s. The guard opened it with a different key and as the door was opened, Cinder found herself being shoved toward the dark doorway.
She squinted into the darkness, seeing at first only a pale huddled form slumped against the cell’s corner.
The figure groaned, straining to lift an arm to block out the dim light filtering in from the hallway.
“Mr. Clay,” said Levana from behind Cinder, “won’t you introduce yourself to our newest guest?”
As Cinder’s eyes adjusted, the form lowered his arm and blinked up at her with shining, glazed eyes.
Cinder’s stomach plummeted.
It was Princess Winter’s guard, the man who had saved her life.
It was the man who would have been executed an hour before.
It was the man who she had just seen taken aboard the podship with Captain Thorne.
(The second part of this sequence will be posted next Friday… stay tuned!)